4 Tips for Betting on MMA Fights in 2018

by Henry Jablonski
on January 22, 2018

If you’re a big mixed martial arts (MMA) fan and you know your stuff, you may be able to make some serious cash betting on fights. While it may seem easy to throw your predictions around from the comfort of your own couch, it becomes a whole different world when you have to put your money where your mouth is. The good news, though, is that when you put your cash on the line, and you are right, you get paid.

I’ve been betting MMA fights for years now and have had some pretty good success. Sure, I’ve made some bonehead picks and been shocked a few more times than I’d like to admit, but I’ve made money. What I’d like to do today is share with you a few of my favorite tips for betting on MMA fights. I would have to say that these four tips were the biggest positive influences on my bottom line. If you take my advice, I’m sure you can put yourself in a nice position to make a lot of money betting fights in 2018.

Don’t Bet Every Fight

It shocks me how many people think that when you place bets on an MMA card, you are somehow required to bet every single fight and the main event. Here’s a newsflash. You are not required to bet ANY fights on ANY card. And, just because a fight is a high-profile fight does not mean that you have to bet on it.

What you should be doing is looking for fights where you think there is a good value bet. If you look at a fight and there isn’t good value, don’t make a bet. This goes for the high-profile main events too. I don’t care if Godzilla is fighting Chuck Lidell and a Sherman Tank at the same time; if there is no value, don’t make a bet.

But…but…that’s boring! Well, here is what it comes down to you. You have to make a decision about what your goal is with betting on MMA. If your goal is strictly entertainment and while winning money would be nice, you’re just looking for fun, then, by all means, fire away on every fight under the sun. But, if your end goal is to make money, then you need to approach your MMA betting like a professional.

There have been plenty of fight cards where I bet every single fight. There have been plenty of cards where I only bet one or two fights.

The point is that you need to look at each fight as a value opportunity.

If the fight does not provide you good value, then don’t make a bet. Sure, this means you might have to sit there and watch a big main event as a casual spectator with no money on the line. This is the nature of the business though. If you’re serious about making money, you have to be smart about what you bet.

As a bonus side nugget, notice that I am not saying fights where you think you know who is going to win. There can be fights where you are confident you know who is going to win (and you’re probably right), but the bet is a bad value. If you don’t understand betting for value, it’s time to start doing your homework. You can have a winning record picking fights and still be a losing player. It’s all about whether or not you are getting paid the right amount for the risk you are taking on a particular fight.

Look at Records the Right Way

If you are looking at a fighter’s record as a whole to help you make your bets, you’re making a mistake. What you need to be doing is breaking down their records and looking at each of their fights individually. Specifically, you should be looking for fights they’ve had against similarly styled fighters. Otherwise, you’re just looking at data that is not worthless but could certainly be misleading.

For example, let’s say you’re looking at a fighter who is 10-0 and they have a big fight coming up against a solid guy with a strong wrestling pedigree and some vicious ground and pound. If you come out and just say, “Well, he’s 10-0, and he’s riding hot. I think he’s going to be able to crush this fight,” you’re making a mistake. What happens if all 10 of those fights are against strikers? What if some of those fights were against wrestlers, but the fight stayed on the feet the entire time?

Basically, if that’s the case, the fighter in question hasn’t proved themselves against a wrestler or someone looking to put them on their back. Does this mean they’re going to do terribly? Of course, not. What it does mean, though, is that you can’t take their record as a huge reasoning for them being favored to win the fight. Yes, someone on a win streak is usually doing something right and probably has some momentum, but you need to be looking at each fight individually.

Look for fights they had against similar styles and similar caliber of opponents. Try and find fights that might have mirrored how you think the upcoming bout is going to go. If you can’t find anything similar, that’s ok. Don’t knock a fighter down because they haven’t fought anyone similar to their upcoming fight. On the same token, don’t boost them too highly because of a winning record against completely different types of opponents.

Watch Out for the Media

For a while when I first started betting MMA, I had to shut the TV off until I had my bets in. No, I’m not saying to shut yourself off from important news and updates, but I am saying you need to be careful of the hype and attempts to sell the fight. Here’s the thing. The media is not in the business of picking fight winners. The media is also not in the business of picking smart bets that have value.

What the media is in the business of is selling fights.

They specialize in finding the stories that people like to hear and blowing them up to get you excited and amped up for an upcoming bout. Is this a bad thing? Not at all. This is what gets new fans into the sport, and it makes things a lot more exciting when you know the storylines behind the bouts.

The problem, though, is when you let this information permeate your bets. Comeback stories are the worst. When a fighter has had something terrible happen in their life that has pulled them away from the octagon, it makes for a huge story when they return to fight. Personally, I love these stories because I think they’re amazing examples of men and women triumphing over tough situations. I think they’re the epitome of role model type stories that should be posted everywhere.

The thing is, though, the fact that the fighter is on a comeback doesn’t make them any more likely to win an upcoming fight. In fact, if anything it makes them less likely thanks to ring rust and having to be away from training and fighting for a while. The betting public loves to get behind these comeback stories. They get so amped for them and bet them so hard that it actually creates a lot of great opportunities to bet the other way on a fight because the lines have moved so much in favor of the underdog.

Make sure that when you’re watching or reading about a fight that you realize the purpose of what you’re watching.

If you’re reading expert picks from a bettor that understands value, take that information to heart and use it to shape your bets. But, if you’re listening to anyone else, keep in mind that they probably have some sort of an agenda that might not be helping you make better bets.

This is even true of people that are making fight picks. Yes, they are probably making an honest pick of who they think is going to win. But what they aren’t doing is factoring in the betting lines and the potential payouts to see if the risk is worth the rewards. Sometimes you’ll have a fighter that is a huge favorite and most likely is going to win. Every sportscaster under the sun is going to pick that person to win the fight. The problem, though, is that the payout odds may be so terrible that the risk of them losing is not worth the very few dollars you’re going to get on a smart pick.

Sportscasters aren’t going to mention this and frankly, don’t care about it. Don’t let them get you caught up in the hype. Only use facts and data to steer your bets. Sure, you can listen to some of this stuff, but be careful and be honest with yourself if you’re letting it negatively sway your picks.

Understand Stylistic Matchups

In my tip on reading records correctly, I talked about the importance of finding past fights where the fighter was matched up with someone of a similar style of their upcoming opponent. Why is this important? It’s important because we currently live in a world where most fighters have a main discipline they grew up learning and then everything else is supplementary that they started learning specifically for MMA.

In the future, we’re going to see MMA fighters that have been learning everything from the day they started training. When this happens, fights are going to get that much more incredible because everyone is going to be great at everything. Until that day, though, we have to look at different fighter’s styles and how they match up against other styles if we want to be successful betting on MMA fights.

For example, what should you be looking at if a Muay Thai fighter is fighting against a jiu-jitsu master? Well, there are quite a few things. First, does the Muay Thai fighter have any sort of ground game? Does the jiu-jitsu fighter have any sort of stand up skills? Basically, will they be able to be competitive if they end up fighting in their opponent’s wheelhouse?

Second, you should be looking at how likely each fighter is to be able to keep things out of or get them to their wheelhouse. Does the Muay Thai fighter have good takedown defense? Are they able to keep the fight on the feet? On the other side, is the jiu-jitsu fighter good at takedowns? Are they successful at getting fights to the ground against good strikers with strong knees?

These are all style-specific questions that you need to be asking yourself when breaking down a fight.

A lot of this information will come from statistics, but the best place to find it is in past fights. Remember that you should take a look at whether or not a fighter has been working with a new coach or working on something since the last fight you’re analyzing. Basically, if you look at a fight and the Muay Thai fighter’s takedown defense is terrible, but they’ve been working with a wrestling coach for years since then, you might want to put less weight into that.

The Wrap-Up

Ultimately, the biggest decision you need to make is whether or not you are betting on fights purely for entertainment value or to try and make money. If it’s for entertainment, definitely use these tips, but don’t worry too much about whether you are making a mistake or not. If you are betting to make money, though, you need to follow these tips.

Yes, I know that at times it’s not going to be as fun as you might want it to be, but that is the nature of making money in sports betting. Sometimes you’re going to have to make tough decisions, and sometimes you’re going to have to miss out betting on some fights that you’re really excited about. These tough choices will feel pretty nice, though, when you see your sports betting bankroll start to grow.

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